May 15, 2012
The book is a collection of about forty short essays, mainly about the common birds of India. Mr Dewar has poetry in his soul.
A couple of essays are not about any particular family of birds. An extract from one of them:
I have repeatedly had occasion to speak of the marvellous, kaleidoscopic changes undergone by ornithological terminology—changes which are the despair of the field naturalist. I am not a statistician, but at a rough guess I should say that every species of bird has its name changed about once in each decade. The object of having a classical terminology is that naturalists of all countries shall have a common name for every bird and beast, and thus not be at cross-purposes when conversing or corresponding. But this object is most successfully defeated when the classical name is continually undergoing alteration.
The museum ornithologist has yet another craze. He sees that there must be some limit to the present multiplication of species, so he has hit upon the brilliant idea of making sub-species. Just as the inhabitants of every town and village have little local peculiarities, so have birds of the same species which live in different provinces. … The hopeless thing is that any Juggins can make new sub-species. It is as easy as falling out of a tree. Let me show how it is done. … [from Up-To-Date Species Making.]